News: First ANA field artillery class graduates in Zabul
Story by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – As Afghan National Security Forces continue to be the lead security force in Afghanistan, their ability to provide stability and safety for the population took another big step forward on Jan. 23, 2014.
The date marked the end of a three-day field artillery field exercise conducted by soldiers of 205th Corps, Afghan National Army, at Camp Eagle, Afghanistan.
The live fire exercise took place during the last couple of days of the first month-long training course that involved a large group of Afghan National Army soldiers from four brigades of the 205th Corps, and was held at the newly built regional artillery training center on Camp Eagle.
First Lt. Marco Kilongkilong, a fire support officer with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, who serves as a field artillery advisor as part of the field artillery 205th Corps SFAT team, spoke about the importance of the previous three days for the Afghan National Army.
“The ability of the ANA to be able to fire and call for artillery is extremely important when you look at the overall aspect of security forces here in Afghanistan,” Kilongkilong said. “The past couple of days proved that they will be able to provide security and support to infantry units in any given situation.”
Day one started off with classroom instruction, led by ANA field artillery officers, with assistance from International Security Assistance Force personnel, in the newly built Regional Artillery Training Center, one of two artillery schoolhouses in Afghanistan.
The instruction dealt with setting coordinates and properly calling in for artillery fire support.
“Field artillery can be a sometimes complicated process, a lot of math and small details are needed to make sure the firing is effective, as well as maintaining personal safety,” Kilongkilong said.
Day two was a “dry run” of the actual process of calling in, and firing artillery rounds, where soldiers got to be hands on with the D-30 122 millimeter field artillery cannon, as well as get accustomed to the pace that the process takes.
The dry run also allows soldiers to get extra practice and see things up close and learn even more, Kilongkilong said.
“It is important that these guys know the speed and how things work in a real-life setting,” he said. “I think they learned a little more each day and got better as the days went on.”
With a small faction of ISAF leadership looking on, including Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, Regional Command (South) and 4th Infantry Division commanding general, ANA soldiers put their training to use and initiated a live fire exercise.
The exercise was successful, as soldiers went through every step at “real-life” speed, and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Schuerger of 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who also serves as a field artillery advisor to the 205th Corps, was more than happy.
“I am extremely proud of you all,” Schuerger said, addressing the ANA leadership during an after action review of the exercise. “Now continue this success moving forward.”
After the three-day exercise, a graduation ceremony was held on Jan. 23, 2014, where 140 ANA soldiers and officers received certificates of completion.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Akram Sameh, a field artillery officer and the commander of 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, ANA, praised the soldiers who completed the course and reminded them of the importance of field artillery on the battlefield.
“You have done a great service to your country today,” Sameh said. “We will lead the way and continue to train and become the best we can be, and make our families and Afghanistan proud.”
Now that those soldiers have graduated, they will be able to take that knowledge back to their own brigades and share as well as instruct their own soldiers.
“The whole concept behind this training between ISAF and ANA was to ‘train the trainer,’ so now they can go back to their individual brigades and teach their soldiers,” Kilongkilong said. “They can pass on what we have taught them and they can continue to make significant progress.”